Forum Addresses Ways To Repeal Solomon Islands MPs Tax-Free Benefits

Pursuing constitutional changes versus public protest discussed

By Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 20, 2016) – A public forum held yesterday in Honiara came up with three strategies to deal with the tax-free award and other entitlements granted to MPs.

Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) organized the forum after last Friday’s Court of Appeal ruling that validated the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission’s (PEC) decision to exempt MPs from paying income tax.

Members of the public turned up in red shirts to show their solidarity and opposition to the free-tax award.

Among those present were former politician John Maetia and constitutional lawyer Reginald Teutao.

FSII vice president, Ishmael Nori, said the first strategy is for the MP for West Makira, Derrick Manu’ari, to move a private members motion in the upcoming Parliament sitting next month to amend the powers of PEC in the national constitution.

Mr Nori said the second option is to form a committee to identify particular sections regarding PEC and suggest way to improve it by the Constitutional Review Committee.

He said at the moment, the constitution states that PEC can call for submission but it is not necessary for it to consider the submissions.

Furthermore, Mr Nori said the third option is to stage a public protest, where members of the public will raise their voices to their MPs and PEC on their disappointment towards the 2015 entitlements.

Former MP Mr Maetia is he believed constitutional amendment will be a tough call because it would require at least 34 members to pass it.

He said there’s no guarantee the MPs will support amending the constitution because this is an issue that touches on their personal interests.

However, Mr Teutao said it will up to each constituent to lobby their MP to support the constitutional amendment.

He said protest is not a good option because it could lead to further problems that may not be in the interest of the public.

West Makira MP Mr Manu’ari, who was one of the five citizens who took the issue to court, said the parliamentary process will take time to amend the constitution, but it needs the support of everyone to keep the momentum going until the end.

In the meantime, Mr Nori said they intend to meet with Solomon Islands Council of Trade Unions (SICTU) to further the public campaign against the tax free entitlement.

Solomon Star
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